Heroes In Crisis #9 by Tom King and Clay Mann is published on Wednesday. This is intended to be a non-spoilery review – if you want spoilers and wish to read behind the lines, you will find some of what you seek here.
This series has been a hard comic book for many to love, if only because it promised much. A story about superheroes dealing with the psychological impact that lives must play on them, written by an accomplished comic book writer and former CIA agent, it felt as if it could use the superhero analogy to explore how real life people deal with such trauma in the lives while serving on the line, and yet get up, go back and face it again – or are unable to. Some of the best superhero books have been ones that have used the graphic immediacy and adrenaline of the genre to highlight aspects of real life, sometimes clumsily and sometimes with great nuance – and in doing so speak to people in a way that dry textbooks or real life documentary simply could not. This was the promise of Heroes In Crisis, and from the offset it failed that promise, giving us the deaths of almost everyone at the Sanctuary, a fight between the two suspects, Harley Quinn and Booster Gold, both believing the other to be the guilty party, and the book turning into a whodunnit as the details of everyone's therapy sessions went the way of Wikileaks.
Throughout the book, we still see those 'testimonials', these tiny snippets into the characters' real lives, and they have continued to intrigue, entertain and provoke, one of the books' successful aspects. And these tiny headshots stand in contrast to Clay Mann's vistas, especially the title pages, giving us the kind of grand scale that suits what this comic has become. With the final issues, all these aspects are at their peak, Mann forming Heroes In Crisis as clouds in the sky as the superheroes streak through it, leaving trails.
And the headshots expand across the DC Universe, the final issue especially scattering the testimonials of all the different Robins who seem to be obsessed with how people see everyone else who is a Robin, while also dropping in psychological insights into a variety of characters – and some potential upset for Dr Will Magnus. Indeed, many of these headshots could spin off into their own series, with just their one line for inspiration. The Rotten Frankenstein? It begins here.
A narrative failure…
But for all this style and snippeting, Heroes In Crisis is an overall narrative failure. Not as much as, say, Identity Crisis (oh and that comes up in Heroes In Crisis as well) but the comic seems to concentrate its storytelling on that which should have mattered least. It threw away a fascinating concept that could have been explored in depth, reducing it to a trope about the dangers of the mentally diverse, and ending up with 'with great power, there must also come responsibility'. It's very pretty but in the end seems to say so little, when it had the potential to say so, so much. Instead, we get a very special episode of Saturday Morning Watchmen.
That's more true of the final episode though, previous episodes have a lot more to recommend them in part. The previous issue that saw Wally West go through his rationale for doing what he did, trying to cover up the accident, trying to put things right before taking his own life, spoke to me deeply. But it felt like it was meant to lead to something that now it seems just wasn't ever there. With the final chapter much of that seems to have been thrown away, or countered with pat answers, Flash's five days seemed wasted, leaving me disappointed.
A curate's comic…
There do appear to be many fingerprints on those narrative choices, but that's neither here nor there, the finished comic is the finished comic. And it is by no means a bad comic, in the words of the curate, some parts of it are excellent. But overall, given what it seems to promise, it is a disappointing one. As ever, your mileage may vary.
And we'll always have those headshots and Clay Mann vistas…
HEROES IN CRISIS #9 (OF 9)
(W) Tom King (A/CA) Clay Mann
The most-talked-about miniseries of the year reaches its stunning finale! The mystery behind the murders at Sanctuary is solved, but the mind behind it is one the heroes never expected. With their deepest secrets exposed, the Trinity has to consider how to carry on. Should the tragedy cause them to redouble their efforts to help their hurting comrades, or will they need to close up shop? The answers will be found in the ashes of this final showdown, and the fates of Booster Gold, Harley Quinn and the rest hang in the balance.In Shops: May 29, 2019